Learn first aid for a baby or child who has swallowed something harmful
Substances such as prescription or non-prescription drugs, household cleaning and DIY products and some plants can be harmful if you swallow them.
1. Establish what the baby or child has taken, when they took it and how much they took.
The emergency services will want to know this information.
2. Call 999 as soon as possible.
If you can’t call 999, get someone else to do it. The substance could be extremely harmful and they may need urgent medical attention.
3. Do not make them sick.
By making them sick, you can cause further damage to their throat or block their airway.
Watch how to help a baby or child who has swallowed something harmful (1 minute 3 seconds)
Common questions about first aid for a baby or child who has swallowed something harmful
How can I tell if a baby or child has swallowed something harmful?
They may vomit and have stomach pain. They may have evidence of the harmful substance around their mouth, or smell of it. There may be empty containers nearby; for example, containers for medication, alcohol or cleaning products.
Babies and children can have different reactions to harmful substances, and sometimes it may take some time for symptoms to occur. Seek medical advice if you have any doubt.
What should I do if I think the baby or child seems fine but has swallowed something harmful?
Call 999 anyway, even if they seem to be showing no symptoms.
Can I give them something to drink?
No, don’t give them anything to drink.
The fluid will enter their stomach and break down the harmful substance. This may result in it being absorbed into their body more quickly.
Why shouldn’t I make the baby or child sick?
Making them sick can cause more damage to the throat or block their airway.
If they have swallowed something corrosive, the liquid will burn the throat on the way back up, causing more pain and distress.
What should I do while I wait for the ambulance to arrive?
Get them to sit still, reassure them and listen to what they tell you.
If it is a baby, you could cradle them in your arms, while a child could sit quietly with you.
What should I do if the baby or child becomes unresponsive?
- how to help a baby who is unresponsive and breathing
- how to help a child who is unresponsive and breathing
- how to help a baby who is unresponsive and not breathing
- how to help a child who is unresponsive and not breathing.
Email us if you have any other questions about first aid for a child who has swallowed something harmful.